She called me and asked, ‘Doc, when can I say yes, if my husband wants to have his way with me? ‘You know with you men’. She is 64-year-old and had undergone major spine surgery 6 weeks previously.
He called me and asked, ‘Doc, when can I see my wife in the morning’. He was 72-year-old and had undergone major spine surgery 8 months previously.
He told me, ‘Doc, is it okay to sleep with my wife? I mean, I already did, and it was okay’. ‘Sorry, I did not ask you first’. This was just after 4 weeks following lumbar spine fusion surgery.
Of course, this is an important topic for discussion after spinal surgery and patients should not shy away from it. Perhaps it is even better to discuss this before surgery so both partners know what to expect to ensure a smooth, stress-free recovery from surgery.
So, let’s start from the type of problems you may have, and the type of surgery performed.
I like to describe the discs as the cement between blocks: holding the bones together! The cement can slip and so the bones become closer to each other and so rub off on one another. This is what causes back pain. The slipped disc (cement) can also press on the nerves in the back and cause leg pains.
Certain individuals may be more vulnerable to disc problems and, as a result, may suffer herniated discs in several places along the spine. This problem can also occur due to age, weight gain, exercise, carrying heavy weights and following an injury such as a car accident.
Fortunately, most herniated discs do not require surgery. However, a very small percentage of people with herniated, degenerated discs may experience symptomatic or severe and incapacitating low back pain, which significantly affects daily life.
The initial treatment for a herniated disc is usually conservative and nonsurgical. (A doctor may prescribe bed rest or advise the patient to maintain a low, painless activity level for a few days to several weeks. This helps the spinal nerve inflammation to decrease. There are also drugs that doctors use to treat the pain.
We may recommend surgery if conservative treatment options, such as physiotherapy and medications, do not reduce or end the pain altogether. A patient may be considered a candidate for spinal surgery if:
• Back and leg pain limits normal activity or impairs quality of life
• Difficulty standing or walking
• Progressive problems such as leg weakness and/or numbness develop
• Loss of normal bowel and bladder functions
• Medication and physical therapy are ineffective
Lumbar Spine Surgery
The operation recommended will be designed to solve the problem presented. The operation could be simple or complex. Complex operations might entail the use of metal (screws) in the body. This is called lumbar spine fusion. Similar operations can be performed in the neck (cervical spine).
Back to the matter
Sex is a vital component to the health of any romantic relationship. Back pain can make it a less than satisfying experience. Back and neck pain can interfere with your sex life, but we want you to resume normal relations with your partner as soon as possible after surgery.
Naturally, getting to the point where you feel comfortable is completely unique to the patient. Surgery—even when it’s minimally invasive—is exhausting to go through. Some people may take 3 months before sex is an option, while others might need 6 weeks. It’s completely varied.
Fortunately for some, recent back surgery does not prevent sex from being a priority. So how long should you wait to have sex after surgery? Well, that depends on the specific type of surgery you had and the recommendations of your doctor. Most doctors will say you can begin having sex again when you feel ready. In general. we recommend avoiding sex for six weeks after surgery.
There are a few important points to note. The patient should not be the active partner. Be passive and allow your partner to pleasure you instead. Ensure you take the position that is most comfortable for you. Taking a passive, gentle approach to sex is really the best way to start—this approach will best prevent painful back strains. You need to find positions that won’t put unnecessary strain on your back muscles. Sharp movements, such as bending forward or arching your back, can increase your pain, depending on your condition.
So, be careful, be comfortable and make sure there is no pain related to the area we have operated. If there is any concern, please speak to your doctor.
Dr Biodun Ogungbo, MBBS, FRCS, FRCSEd, MSc, a Contributor to Newspackng, is a neurosurgeon with Brain and Surgery Consortium at 8 Buchanan Crescent, Off Aminu Kano Street, Wuse 2, Abuja.